While working on editing my novel, I have begun to miss the joy of writing. Short stories are so satisfying; the delicious snack food of prose. Short, packed with flavor, and then you walk away. A novel is like preparing a five course dinner party. There is joy in the making, joy in the little tastes here and there, and a big pay off of an amazing product at the end. But you don’t do that every time you are hungry; sometimes you open the freezer and stand in the kitchen eating ice cream straight out of the box. I need more snack writing.
Writing prompts, the more vague the better, help me write short stories. So I have decided to write a collection of story around the theme of plants in my yard. I should have one up every few days. They will not have a single genre, theme, tone, or perspective. They could be realist, sci-fi, horror, humor, or fantasy. Or something else all together. Maybe even a poem if I am feeling fancy one day. I will post a picture of my inspiration.
Here is the first story:
This is the flower that says “spring is coming” to me. A happy yellow sun climbing up through the dead leaves from autumn or the snow of winter. The odd thing about the daffodil is it starts to bloom and then like clockwork a few days later we get the coldest weather of the year. The daffodil is hope in the midst of strife, a bright flame in the darkest hours before dawn.
The days and weeks had merged; forming a single dark night since the heavy wooden door had slammed shut, locking Niamh in. As an enemy to his Majesty she could rot in this hole for all the jailers cared. Sometimes they brought her food; stale bread, moldy cheese and meats a dog would not eat. Niamh ate it all, at first. She ate the horrible food and drank the dirty fowl smelling water. She dreamed of family and freedom.
But as the night wore on she dreamed less of home. She had no way to know day from night and over time lost the ability to tell dream from reality. Sleep or waking she was trapped in a nightmare. The pains of hunger, followed by the pain of bad food. The smell of vomit, shit and the moldy dankness of the cell followed her into dreams, she forgot the smell of flowers and her mother’s cooking. In the nearly total darkness she forgot the faces of her sisters and the rolling green hills beyond the pale. The bites of lice, fleas and sometimes even rats would wake her nigh she had fallen asleep.
In the beginning every time light blossomed around the door she rejoiced. When the door opened and her cell filled with the flickering greasy light of the guard’s torch she felt a surge of hope. This could be them letting her go, sending her home. Later she hoped it would be them coming take her to execution. Now, when the light came she felt nothing. She no longer cried when they left, or hurried to the food. She just sat in the corner that was the least revolting.
In the first day she found a few small rocks on the floor. Whether part of the dirt floor or chips pieces of the large stones of the keep she did not care. They were tools, her only assets. At first she used them to try to dig a hole under the wall, but the floor was too hard and the rocks to small. The place had an underground feeling; maybe the floor was lower than the surrounding ground.
She tried not to think about being entirely underground, an as yet unrealized corpse in a filthy shroud that had been a lovely dress.
Once she gave up on the floor she used the rocks to chip at the mortar between the stones. She had more success with that, it being so damp in the cell, and the keep being old. Each little piece she removed, each groove she deepened was a victory then. But now, she just chipped at the same place over and over, out of habit not expectation. The light tap, tap, tap near her ear was something like comfort. The rock was to short, a long thin bone had taken its place.
She sat there tapping, staring into the darkness where food had been left some time ago. She could smell it mingling with the pervasive stink. Her mouth watered, her stomach ached in longing and clenched in disgust. But she did not move to retrieve it. Eating just prolonged her confinement; best to stay where she was and wait for sleep to come. Maybe the final sleep and the only freedom she could hope for.
Tap, tap, tap. Her fingers played out a rhythm, maybe of a song she once knew, now forgotten like everything else. Sometimes when the beat was resting she would wipe away the mortar dust that build up on the bottom. She used to run her finger down the whole groove, but she could not longer do that. In order to touch the back she had to put down the bone and make her hand thin. When she last cared enough to check it her hand went in the grove almost up to her thumb before she touched the back.
Tap, tap, tap. She thought about getting the food again and decided not to.
Tap, tap, tap. The rhythm beguiled her, teasing at a melody and music .
Tap, tap, tap. Pain seared her eyes.
She cried out, dropping the bone, covering both eyes with her hands. Her face wet with tears. She curled up in a ball crying from shock and pain. Eventually she opened her eyes to find that she could see her fingers pressed against her face, each one outlines in red.
Niamh slowly parted her fingers, looking towards the light. From the groove in the wall shined yellow light. It cut through the darkness, a beam from heaven. Tiny angles danced in the light.
Eyes still burning Naimh reached her hands into the stream. Even with the dirt and dried blood her skin glowed where the light touched it, bright yellow in the center of the beam, lighter radiating out. Soon her hands felt so warm in the light, warm for the first time in a lifetime of darkness.
She crawled back to her corner, and looked out between the stones. The opening was not far above the intensely green ground, less than two feet. The grove was less than two fingers wide, but half as high as her arm. Face pressed against it she could see the ground, buildings in the distance and the sky. She could smell fresh air, the hint of flowers and baking bread. She might have been able to smell the ocean, or maybe she just remembered how to remember it, because she thought of home and was taken back there on a road paved in sunlight and memory.
Neimh was free again, at least in part. She stayed there against the stone, face divided by sunlight breathing in her freedom.
She pulled herself away when she realized that if a guard opened the door and saw the light that they would take everything away from her again. She ripped a piece off over her dress. Using the mortar dust, dirt and a bit of water she made a plug to hide the light if she heard someone coming.
Famished she got the food from in front of the door.
With as much of her body in the light as possible Neimh ate her mother’s fresh baked bread, to the crash of waves and the cry of gulls.